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Basic requirements for a valid will

Making a will can give you control over what happens to your assets after you pass away. A well-drafted, specific will with clear provisions can also go a long way towards minimizing potential conflicts and misunderstandings later on.

The first thing you want to ensure is that your will meets basic legal requirements for validity. While these requirements can seem simple on the surface, the amount of litigation that has arisen over the years concerning these issues shows it is better to work with a lawyer rather than assume your will is just fine the way it is.

Writing and execution

The will must meet several technical requirements. It has to be in writing and signed by the testator, and two witnesses must be present at the signing. Washington does not accept holographic wills, which are entirely handwritten and signed by the testator with no witnesses. However, it will recognize a holographic will executed in a state that does allow such wills.

The testator

The testator must meet two requirements: he or she must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind. While the first requirement is straightforward, the other can present issues.

Understanding testamentary capacity

The basic principle of testamentary capacity is that the testator should understand what a will does, know the general type and extent of property he or she owns, and be aware of his or her familial relationships.

Courts will generally not assume incapacity just because the testator has some cognitive decline or eccentricities, even with an official diagnosis of conditions known to affect cognition. A person may also be held by a prior court to lack other sorts of capacity, such as that of entering into a contract. Because testamentary capacity requires less mental ability, other findings of incapacity do not automatically mean an invalid will. However, because such findings or the existence of cognitive impairment can complicate matters, precautions such as an expert examination prior to making the will could be advisable. Your attorney can advise you with more specificity on issues that concern you as you prepare to make your will.

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Mark A. Brown, P.S.
1325 4th Avenue, Suite 940
Seattle, WA 98101

Phone: 206-686-4466
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